In 2007 I was joined by 50 other crazy adventurers and took off on the World Race, traveling to 11 countries in 11 months.
This is a little story from March 12, 2007 in Managua, Nicaragua.
I set out that morning with a friend and our host to find a doctor that could give my knee a quick look. You see, January 9th, I had fallen off a waterfall in Mexico and did a bang up job on the old knee. It hurt pretty bad at first but I walked it off and it seemed to get better. Except for a massive bump. At first it was just squishy (fluid) but after a couple of months it looked and felt like there was a BIG rock in my knee. So, when I could take the pain no more, I finally caved and agreed to see a doctor.
We found one doctor who said I would need x-rays–so he sent us away to the x-ray clinic. At the x-ray clinic, they told me I would need to see a specialist who could read the x-rays. Coincidentally, that was not the same doctor I had seen that morning. And so with a little searching we found the specialist–with a “closed for lunch” sign on the front door. So, naturally we took that as a sign to get some lunch as well. We returned after lunch, and in VERY broken spanish, A LOT of hand gestures, and some sound effects, we did our best to explain the nine foot plunge down the waterfall. I don’t know how much of the story this doctor understood, but he loved the part where I told him I was from Seattle. He smiled proudly, pointed to the wall and showed us a picture of him at the University of Washington. I won’t lie, there was actually a tremendous amount of comfort in that. And so the “conversation” went on. In which he concluded that I had “bursted my bursa bolsa” and the fluid had calcified to my bone. Basically it was petrified, or maybe I was petrified. Umm moving on.
Naturally I asked him what the next step was. He told me it would be a simple operation and he could do it there in his office. I asked when and he said “tonight”. Tonight!? Like I have to make this decision today, TONIGHT?
It was right around 3:30 when he told me this and he wanted me to be back at 5:30 for an after hours operation. And he said he would give me a few minutes to make my decision. I needed to call and ask someone for “advise” or at least confirmation that I was making a good decision. I KNEW that my mom was out of the question. She would flip and then I would panic and I guarantee there would be no simple operation taking place that night. So I called back to our camp looking to chat with one of the leaders. I gave a five second run down of the situation and asked Chad what he thought. His reply, “Um… how big is the scar going to be?”. I don’t know that I got the answer I was looking for, but it made me laugh. I threw up my hands and said “ce la vie, lets do this”.
I went back to base, took a shower, hugged my sweet friends (in case I didn’t survive) and then headed back to the city. I think being 21 and completely naive was my biggest blessing. I was nervous but not scared. The reality of the situation hit me just briefly when we got back to the Doctor’s “office” and his car was parked in waiting room. Yes, thats right. The doctors office was in fact his home garage. I shrugged it off, looked back at my friends and marched right on in.
I jumped up on the bed, he gave me a shot to numb my knee, had his young assistant grab my hand, and then he took the scissors and started cutting. I have never had knee surgery before, but I imagine it doesn’t normally look like this. Once the incision was made, he took his little chisel, and chipped the calcified bump off my knee. Then he asked if I wanted to keep it. I’m sorry, BUT NO. JUST no! He stitched me up, handed me a set of crutches and three pain pills, shook my hand, took my $500, and sent me on my merry way.
And that, ladies and gentlemen is the true tale of my knee surgery in the second poorest country in the western hemisphere.
And today I am feeling a little sentimental and so very happy that seven years later, it’s just a fun little story. I can walk and run with the best of them, and the caterpillar looking scar, though slightly faded over time, reminds me of the blessing of healing and health!
Here are a few pictures to help tell the story!
I was trying to cross a small but rapid current to make it to the top of those incredible falls.
Two days after surgery, we flew to Peru. The airline was kind enough to wheelchair me to the plane, and then stick me in the very back where there is absolutely NO leg room. Not very conducive for a leg that doesn’t bend. PS. Look at that Chaco tan line. OMG.
Two weeks and three days after surgery, I hiked to some abandoned ruins 13,000 feet up in the Andes.
Cheers to healing, health, and a lifetime of adventures!
If you would like to read up on some of my other adventures from the World Race, you can do so here.